Romani University Students Take Their Places in Nitra, Slovakia

The Roma Education Fund today brought together over 80 Romani university students in Nitra to publicly celebrate their achievements. All finalists to receive the 2013-2014 Roma Memorial University Scholarship, they reflect a growing body of Romani students attending universities across the breadth of Slovakia and the greater region. Ranging in fields across the academic spectrum, from BAs to PhDs, an increasing number of Romani students are choosing higher education in order to advance their professional careers.

The Roma Memorial University Scholarship Program provides merit-based support to Romani students pursuing tertiary education at state-accredited universities in their countries of residence. In 2012, the RMUSP scholarship scheme provided 69 scholarships to Romani students in Slovakia. This year the scholarship program has further expanded, with over 80 students receiving financial support from the Roma Education Fund.

With their future well-being and careers in mind, the Roma Education Fund organized two morning seminars that discussed issues of Romani identity as well as opportunities on the Slovak labor market from some of the top figures in the field.

After a recess for networking, this afternoon’s public gala featured an inspirational message from Peter Pollack, Slovakia’s first elected parliamentarian of Romani origins, who has stressed social responsibility during his mandate. He said, "After you finish your studies, I'll be happy to see you going back to the communities, work there and help us,  Roma, yourself, your families.”

Pollack was joined by some of RMUSP’s most talented students who shared their stories of academic and personal achievement with the audience. One the region’s most famous Romani orchestras, Kalyi Jag, graced the stage at this year’s Roma Memorial University Scholarship Gala, providing music and inspiration.

The Roma Education Fund has been actively involved in improving educational outcomes for Romani students since 2005, providing over 375 scholarships to deserving pupils. In addition to its scholarship activities, REF supports is actively working to improve access to all levels of education through comprehensive support and programs working for school desegregation, the abolition of special schools, and increasing access to early childhood education and care. Working with a variety of local partners and stakeholders, the Roma Education Fund has disbursed over EUR 1.8 million to provide small technical assistance and capacity-building grants to support the implementation of local education projects.

This inaugural event opens a cycle of RMUSP galas that will continue to celebrate and recognize finalists across the region: in Tirana on November 7, in Skopje on November 8, in Prague on November 8, in Sofia on November 15 and in Budapest on November 18.  

The Roma Memorial University Scholarship Program is funded in part by the Open Society Foundations, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Swiss Development Corporation and the UK Department for International Development. 

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